Sunday, May 18, 2014

Step by Step - Blood Angles

"My other arm is over THERE!"
My other two step-by-step articles seem to be pretty popular, so I decided to try another one. This time around, I am going to tackle something that I am a bit of an expert on, painting red Marines. Blood Angles were my second army that I started in about 2007. I ruined about 50 Marines before I began to figure out how to paint red in a way that I thought looked good. Since then, I have finished a Battle Company plus more  of angry, red, armored killing machines. 

I've made a lot of mistakes and had to learn some hard lessons. What follows is worth about 4 years of worth of painting experience. My way may not be for everyone, but it works for me and produced results that get me compliments every time I take my minis out. 

The basics of how I paint are 1. Basecoat, 2. Wash, 3. Touch up, 4. Hard edge highlighting. There are a few departures from this, but that is essentially it. It sounds really easy but the skill comes in what washes to use and applying them with finesse. If you can't tell from my rants, I am not a fan of dipping or overusing liquid talent like Dev Mud. I prefer skill and precision in my painting. I feel that gives a better result. I am only going to paint these minis once, and to not do my best on each one does a disservice to the minis and my skills. 

Brace yourself, because this is going to be a long long ride. I have a lot to say on the subject of painting so there are going to be a lot of words to read. Don't be daunted! There are some great pearls of wisdom tucked in those walls of text. 

Red Is The Warmest Color
When I first started out, a wise old painter told me that man who can catch fly with chopstick can do anything... erm. I mean, that the three hardest colors to paint are black, white and red. Black is difficult because you can not shade it. White is hard because you can not highlight it. 

Red is its own special case because of the unique way it mixes, shades and highlights. Unlike cooler colors like blue and green, when you mix red with black you end up with a muddy mess rather than a shading color. When you mix it with white, you end up with pink. Neither looks good. Red is also unforgiving. Red paint typically does not cover well. Mistakes (especially with dark colors like black) are very hard to cover up. Red also does not respond well to washes. You can't just wash a red color with a black, borwn or even red wash and expect things to come out ok easily. 

Blood Angel Terminator

Before we really get started, I have a note on the photographs accompanying this article. I had a problem with my lighting and did not check my pictures until I was half way through the process. I was going to scrap the whole post, but I decided that the text should be good enough of a tutorial even if they pictures are not stellar. Unfortunately the thing that they show least well is the red paint. And that was the most important part. I think the descriptions of how to paint or equally valuable though. 

1. Painting red starts before you dip your brushes at all. The most important step is to thin your paints. I use GW paints and thin them with a 1:1 mix of tap water and Future floor wax (Also called Pledge with Future shine or some nonsense). Why not just water you ask? Because, I said so is the short answer. The long answer involves the limited solvency of water in regard to non-polar large molecules. If you diluted your paints too much with water you would notice two things. The paints would settle out and they would take forever to dry. Neither of these things is what you want. The floor wax helps to suspend the acrylic particles int he paint and keeps drying time low. 

Right when I open a pot of paint, I thin it down 2 parts paint to 1 part diluent mix. This works for most cases. Often I will have two pots of paint going at a time with one being 1:1 diluted red paint. This is especially important when painting vehicles. 

You want several (2-5) very thin coats of red over a red base. I prefer Krylon Pimento spray paint for my primer. It is a shade off of Blood Red, comes in satin and doesn't go on too thick if you are careful. Be careful when applying your thinned red paint to the mini as to not let it pool in recessed areas. To this end, keep your brush moving. Be careful not to let the paint get too dry or you will leave brush marks. 

2. Once you have a good, solid red base color, you are ready to start applying the base colors for the other colors that you want to paint. At this point you should have a good idea of all the colors you want to use and that will determine what base colors you want. For this mini we have several different colors that we want to paint. The red is taken care of but there is also silver metals, gold metals, parchment, green wax. There is also a single solid black shoulder pad and a blue-white Crux Terminatus but those will be covered separately. 

For the silver metals, you want to paint all those areas black. This includes all the wires, the joints between the armor, the lights mounted over his right shoulder, the scope on his hand (Why do you need a scope on your Powerfist, I do not know) and the vents on the back.  I also chose to paint the chest eagle silver but that sometimes gets painted blue-white with some of my other Blood Angles. 

The gold metals areas include the pendant Crux Terminatus, the Crux on the left grieve, random blood droplets and that weird oblong thing at the small of his back. All these areas need a solid brown basecoat. That may sound a little weird but it is the best base color I have found. In the old days when we painted up from a black basecoat for all the colors, we started with Tin Bitz, Brazen Brass, then two or more layers of Shining Gold before you would even have a decent gold color. Midrange browns like the old Bestial Brown or the new (and slightly darker) Mournfang Brown, cover better than gold paints over black and give a better base. I have tried painting gold over a red base (gold does have a bloody red shine to it), but have been disappointed every time. The red shows through and in an unauthentic way. 

The Purity Seals are pretty easy. They get an off-white base like Rakarth Flesh. The only thing to be careful with is, when there are two seals next to each other, be careful not to goop up the gap between them with too much paint. If your brush runs dry on these it is not so bad as a little texture adds to the paper effect. 

Last up are the seals and the eyes. These areas get a coat of a mid range green like the old Snot Green or the new Warpstone Glow. Just be careful not to run too far onto red areas as green is a pain to cover up on red. 

3. Now that you have all your basecolors down it is time to apply some colors that are going to look more like the finished product. The black areas get a coat of dark metal or midrange metal. I prefer dark metals like the old Boltgun Metal or the current Leadbealcher. You could skip to the midrange metals like Chainmail but that is still going to require two coats. The darker colors cover better. It is still two coats no matter how you swing it. 

The other areas are pretty obvious. The brown areas get a gold color like the old Shining Gold or the new Gehenna's Gold. Careful with detailed areas as metallic paints can get goopy. The parchment areas get a brighter off-white like Bleached Bone. No need to mess with the green areas as long as they have solid color. 

You'll notice in the photos that the Crux got magically painted but don't worry. I didn't skip that part. It will have its own section in another post.

At this point I started painting the black areas but that stage is not pictured in the pic from this stage. As I said at the top of this article, black is one of the most  difficult colors to paint and is worthy of a whole article of its own. I am going to go pretty fast over the black areas with not much detail. My plan is to write a whole article on the ways to paint black later as it is a nuanced subject.

The stage that you should do on the black at this point is to first mix a midrange grey like Codex Grey (the kids call it Dawnstone these days) and Chaos Black in a 1:1 ratio. This gets painted over the areas that you want to be black. If you are having a hard time getting the paint to cover adequately, you can first paint the area pure black. 

4. This step is going to be pretty much like the last one. The silver metal areas need their second layer metallic paint. At the end you should have a solid and even base of Chainmail. Some people will tell you to always leave a little of the color under showing. I am one of those people but not in this case. The new washes eliminate the need to layer your colors as much (at least in this specific instance). 

You can use this opportunity to touch up the gold and green areas to make sure that you have good coverage and have not missed any little nooks or angles. Be sure to turn the model in a bunch of different directions like upside down and in your dominant hand. 

Also at this step, (and actually pictured) you want to paint a thick edge of pure Codex Grey in the black areas along all the hard edges of the shoulder pad. It should be about 1 mm wide. If that is not a meaningful distance for you do this. Paint the edge really wide then paint it 50% more than you think it should be. 

(I am also going to stop using both the old and new names for the paints at this point. It is really annoying to have to stop and look up the names. I am going to use the names of the paints that I'm actually using. You can look up alternative name is pretty easily online.)

5. This is the sexy step. Here you are going to wash all the metal areas with a black wash. You can make your own but I like the GW Washes. When applying washes, be sure to paint them on. While you can get ok results by dipping minis but in the end they still look like you dipped them. With as crappy as red paint covers darker colors, you will have a hard time getting bright, vivid reds out of a dipped mini. 

To that end, paint on your washes. Do not dip

You may want to tackle the silver metal areas separately before painting on the red areas. I know that I said that washing red with a black wash is not the way to go, but if you are very very careful it is a good way to achieve deep shading. When you are painting on your black wash, pay special attention to the deeply recessed areas like above the feet and under the grieves, under the armor plates that are above the thighs, the square areas on the back of the legs. 

The face is kind of a special case. For such a small area, you are going to spend a ton of time with detail on the face. Don't be like this guy and paint the entire helmet the same color. (His conversion is pretty good but his paint scheme leave something to be desired) There is metal, lenses and textures in there, not to mention the hand-painted details like Sargent stripes or laurels. It is not all one color. 

When applying wash to such a detailed area you have got to be careful. You want to apply wash to give good depth but at the same time not darken the red areas so much that you won't be able to highlight it appropriately. To help with this I keep a damp but clean old detail brush handy when painting on the wash. This way, if I get crazy with the wash, I can use the damp brush to clean off some of the wash before it dries. You can also lick and suck your brush and use that damp brush to do the same thing. The advantage to that last style is that it is fast and the downside is that the washes taste awful. 

While we are talking about the face, you will also be shading the eye lenses. Pay attention that they get the care they need. You can always come back and add wash to the eyes later but doing this will darken the green quite a bit and make it a little harder to touch it up later. Not that much harder but a little. In the same vein, you will also add black wash to the purity seals. The important parts to hit are a moderate but not dark dot in the middle and a dark ring around the seal. Ignore the parts where the seal attaches to the parchment as black on the parchment will look wrong. You do want a solid ring of black around the wax seal. You pretty much want a solid black line between any different colors. It is a little cartoony but it is my style. 

Also apply a thick but even coat of black wash to the black shoulder pad. If you get sloppy with this you can ruin adjacent colors especially light colors like the blue-white used on the Crux and the off-white used on the parchment. It is not hard to cover it up later but it is a pain in the ass to do. A little care with this step, will save you lots of time later. 

Once you feel like you are done, then put the mini down and walk away. Give it at least 20 min to dry. Have a drink, pet the kitty, listen to part of the 4 hours epic World's End Radio podcast. Whatever you do, do not mess with the mini until the wash, all the wash, is dry. Failure to do this can make some messes that are really hard to clean up. 

6. Now he is starting to look like a finished mini. At this stage we are are going to start by cleaning up the mess we made by putting black wash on our red paint. If you were really sloppy with your application, did not clean up after yourself or jumped the gun and disrupted drying wash, then you have made your job a lot harder. You should only have to clean up placed where the wash got out of bounds. Pay special attention to the tops of things. Anything that will pick up light and reflect it should be red and not black or dark. That being said, you still need to create contrast between areas. For example, the square areas on the back of the legs has areas that are all facing up but they still need to be shaded to create the illusion of depth. 

Also in this step you are going to apply all the Mithryl Silver highlights to your metals. A lot (and by that I mean everyone that I have ever seen paint metals) does this by drybrushing it on and there is nothing wrong with that. The down side is that you lose control over the finished product and it looks drybrushed. It takes just a little more time to paint on your highlights and you get a superior product if you do. When painting on the silver, pay special attention to any edges or angles that are going to pick up the light. If you want a good reference for this go down to your local drag strip or car show. Walk in a circle around a car or a engine that has a lot of chrome on it and note the areas that throw a glint at you. Those the areas that you want to pay special attention to when you paint on Mithryl Silver highlights. 

As long as have the Mithryl Silver out, paint some sloppy highlights on all the gold areas. You do not have to be careful or neat with this step. Try to hit the areas that would reflect light but do not be precious with it. This is an area that you can make up some speed on. Try not to apply so much that it turns your gold areas silver. You want a shine not a glare. 

Next up you want to apply some hard edge highlights of pure Codex Grey along the edges of the black shoulder pad. Like painting black, the proper way to do hard edge highlighting could be an article in itself. The general idea is that you want to apply the thinnest but most distinct line of grey you can along the very edge of the shoulder pad. Once that is done, you can darken the areas of the shoulder pad with pure black if there are areas that you feel don't look quite right. I know that is not really useful advice but knowing when things look right is just part of growing as a painter. Sorry.

Now that you are done with touching up the red and highlighting all that metal, you can touch up the green areas that you washed black. For the lenses, this is the most critical part. You want a good solid base without impinging on the black outline that you created with the wash step. If you color outside the lines, you will ruin the effect. At that point you can try to clean it up with a damp brush or you can let it dry and start over with the wash step. Neither is good so just use good brush control. 

Also you should touch up the green on the purity seals at the same time as you do the lenses. (Short aside: This is part of mastering painting. You need to work on efficiency. Painting in a very time-consuming process and you need to make the most out of all of your bench time. Many of us have long and hard jobs, kids or partners that all vie for our time. Every hour painting is valuable. When you get out a color, try to pant as many things with that color as you can in one go so that you do not have to switch colors unnecessarily later.) The idea when touching up the wax seals is to fix over-washing. If you put too much black wash in the middle of the seal and it turned all back, you can fix that now by applying a dot of green to the middle. Be careful, because too much green at this stage ruins the effect too. 

Lastly, take some time to paint your base Bestial Brown. I know that I do not do basing like most people do, but like my painting style, it works for me. It usually take two coats of brown to cover the base entirely. It also sticks better if you prime the base beforehand. 

7. Wow that was one hell of a step 6. Everyone had a break, grab a snack, take a nap? Good. Moving on. 

At this point lots of people call it quits. They have some shading. There is a little highlighting. This mini is perfectly acceptable as a table top mini. But with just a little more effort we can take something ordinary to something extraordinary. 

We are going to apply some hard edge highlighting with Wild Rider Red to all the red armor that we just spent so much time touching up. You can be pretty sloppy with this step and use wide margins for your highlights. The only real ways this can go wrong is if you paint into the black washed area or apply so much orange paint that you overpower the red. Even then, most of these mistakes will be covered up in the next step. 

Once that is done and dry we are going to wash all the gold and parchment areas with Seraphim Sepia. There is almost no way to mess this up. Aside from glooping on the wash, everything should turn out fine. Just monitor the parchment areas for pooling as cleaning up that later will be harder than monitoring it now. 

Last up, we can do some some touch ups on the brown base. At this time we are going to use a smaller brush to push the paint closer to the feet and make sure that we put a good ring of paint around the outside of the base. Once that is done, take a walk because brown fingerprints on the mini is going to ruin things at this point. 

8. Now we are going to wash all of the red armor with a special red wash. The current GW wash, Carroburg Crimson, is way way too dark to use as a wash for red armor. The previous wash, Baal Red, was perfect. I don't know what the idea was behind making the new wash so needlessly dark. Trust me, if you put Carroburg Crimson over a solid red base you end up with a muddy and dark mess. In order to recreate the golden child of Baal Red, I mix Carroburg Crimson with Fuegan Orange  in a 1:2 ratio. The result is close enough for this usage. It's red enough to shade properly but not so dark to turn everything muddy. 

You are going to apply a liberal wash over all the red armor plates. This is a process that will benefit from doing it all at once and in a speedy manner. If you stop and start you risk leaving dry lines like coffee rings on your model. Once you are done then take a walk and let it dry completely. 

We are also going to spend a little time touching of the Bleached Bone on the parchment. Focus on the hard edges and the tops of any curves outward. Do not go crazy on the highlighting as less is more in this case. 

Kinda look like a Leprechaun's butthole. 
Also, let's do just a little Mithryl Silver highlighting on the gold areas. Again, less is more, with this. While we have the silver out, we may as well touch up any silver metal areas that we may have missed. 

We should finish highlighting the wax seals. You're saying that they are green and shaded and touched up. what else could there be? Well a little extra work goes a long way. We are going to grab a lighter green like Goblin Green and apply it in a broken ring around the raised edge of the seal. This simple step adds a lot of depth and detail to the seals. Do not do it in a solid ring as this looks hokey and ruins the illusion. I've attached a crappy MS Paint diagram to the right. I hope it makes sense. 

This is an optional step but I find it is a simple way to add some detail to lenses. On the lights over the right shoulder and the lens at the ends of the scope on the Powerfist you can add a small dash of blue wash. I used to paint these types of things blue but it took 3 or 4 colors and a lit of time for not a great effect. For minor things like lights a little dash of a blue wash goes a long way. 

Last up, it is time to put a little dash of yellow on the eye lenses. This too could be a post all to itself but there are some simple ways to paint eyes that add a lot to a mini. So what we have are some solid green lenses with a dark ring around them. What we are going to do is apply a mid-range yellow like Golden Yellow to the lateral canthus. All it takes is a little swipe of yellow to make all the difference. We lucked out in that Terminator eye lenses protrude a little where as Power Armor lenses are recessed and much harder to paint without making a mess. 

9. We are almost done, I swear.

We have two things to do to the red armor and we are done with it. Before we start with the final hard edge highlighting, we need to touch up the red again. There are places where the red wash may have been too heavy and the red will look muddy. This happens especially on large flat areas like the grieves, the tops of feet, the armor over the thighs and the top of the back. A little touch up with red will smooth that you. Careful to apply it evenly and with a damp brush or you may end up with streaks. 

Once that is done, here comes the careful step. We are going to take our detail brush and delicately apply a thin edge of orange to all the hard edges. All of our hard work can be ruined by a bump or a brush with too much paint at this point. I really want to talk about the dos and don'ts of hard edge highlighting at this point but this article has already dragged on too long. 

We also have to write something on those purity seals. The best way to do this is to put some dotted lines on them. You can use a brush but it is hard to get even paint that is in a small enough line with even the smallest brush. I like to use a 0.02 mm pen to do this. They can be pricey and hard to find but try your local art store. 

Last up, to give the illusion of light glinting off of lenses, I like to apply 1 or two dots of pure white on the lenses and other things like gems or lenses. It really adds a lot to the effect.

And that's it! That's all my secrets that I've learned and earned over the years. If you have had the dedication read this wall of text then I hope you have learned a few things. I know it was a lot to read unlike the Bloodletter tutorial. I know that if I was reading this I would complain that there are too many words and not enough pictures. I just had a lot to say.

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